Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Coffee Break Business Plan: Ten Questions to Help You Take Control of Your Writing Career

By Amy Denim, @AmyDenim

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Please help me welcome Amy Denim to the site today to help us with something no writer I know enjoys doing--creating a business plan for your publishing career.

Amy writes business books for writers and contemporary romance. She loves hot heroes (like chefs and cowboys) and curvy intelligent heroines (like chefs and cowgirls.)

She’s been a franchise sales coordinator, a lifeguard, a personal shopper, and a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. But now she spends her days reading and writing at her local library or in her book cave.

Amy started out her writer’s life scared out of her wits because she didn’t have a business plan, hadn’t yet created an online platform, wasn’t on Twitter, didn’t have a Facebook fanpage and had never even heard of Goodreads. She just wrote books. So she spent a year becoming a publishing industry information fiend and now does consulting for creatives on how to use take control of their writing careers. She started Coffee Break Social Media to help writers and artists learn to use SM platforms effectively (without the scare tactics) but still have time to create. She believes business plans and social media can be every writer’s friend, sometimes they just need an introduction.

Visit Amy on her author website or for tips and tricks on the writing business at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com.

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Take it away Amy...

Have you thought about putting together a business plan? But, oh, it’s such a long and complicated process. Ugh. Why bother, when you could spend your valuable time writing. But, wait, what’s this? A guide to help authors write a business plan on coffee breaks?

Okay, so I find when things get boring and staid that some humor and creativity makes it all much more fun. And let’s admit that a traditional business plan is anything but fun. But having one can be an important part of taking control of your writing career. To get you started I’ve created a quick and easy set of questions that hit all the main parts of a plan and it really should only take you about a coffee break to complete it. I call this the Coffee Break Business Plan.

Put your thinking cap/top hat/beanie with the helicopter rotor /tiara on. It's time to think about what you really want from your writing career.

These questions are to get you started thinking about your goals, but don't go crazy and spend hours making lists and/or daydreaming about your success as a writer, I want you to do these on a coffee break.

This is all about basic goals, which you can expand on to create a full-blown business plan, so spend only a few minutes thinking about each of these questions. Write a couple of sentences to answer them or make yourself a nice bullet-point list. If you’d like a template to print out to help you with this exercise, you can download one here.

Grab a cup of coffee and a pen.

Write down the answers to these questions.

1. How many books do you plan to write? In what genre?

2. What's your projected word count?

3. When will you finish each project? Or, how much time will you need to complete each project? (Don’t forget to build in time for critiques, beta readers, editing, and all those other activities… besides actually writing the book.)

4. How will you publish these books? Traditionally, self-published, a hybrid approach?

5. If you’re self-publishing, what services will you need and how much will you spend on those?

6. Who is your competition? Who else writes books like yours?

7. How will you sell and market your books?

8. How much money will it cost you to publish and market? What services might you pay for to help you do that?

9. How much money do you plan to make, and when will you see that revenue?

10. When do you plan to achieve these goals?

11. What resources do you need (like a budget template, word count tracker, a reference book about business plans) to complete your plan?

12. When can you review your goals to see what you’ve accomplished and what you need to revise?

Bonus question: What rewards can you set up for yourself to say “Job well done!”

There you go. You just created a basic business plan. For real. Laminate that sucker and put it up big and pretty in front of your computer. Every time you sit down to write, take a look and focus on writing to achieve those goals. If the IRS comes knocking, you can wave it in their faces.

If you’d like assistance expanding your business plan I can help with that too. Leave a comment on the site today, ask questions about business plans or anything else you’d like and one lucky commenter will win a copy my new book The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Authors: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career. But, if you can’t wait to win it, it’s available now on Amazon.

About The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Authors

When you first started writing all you thought you needed was a good story, the right words and the time to write. But there's so much more to a writing career than putting words on the page. Having a business plan is a big part of moving your writing from being a hobby to a profession. But who has the time to sit down and write a report style tome filled with scary numbers and boring mission statements. The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans breaks the ideas you need for your plan into manageable parts that you can work on during your coffee breaks and takes the traditional business plan sections and transforms them into ideas for your creative brain.

You'll learn:

- How to create SMART goals
- How to track your query letters, book sales, rankings and more
- How to create a budget for your income and expenses
- How to evaluate your plan
- What you need to do to become an author entrepreneur!


  1. Wow. Who knew all that needed to be written down instead of marching around in my head?! I'd love to see the book.Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great advice. I hadn't even considered writing a business plan. I guess I am naive in that I hadn't thought about many of these questions. I checked out your site. Your templates will certainly help me get started in this area. Thanks for getting me started.

  3. Excellent post! Thank you so much for this. This was a huge blind spot for me. I never even considered doing a business plan. Big ol' Homer Simpson DUH!

  4. Wow. Tremendous advice. Thank you.

  5. Hi Amy
    Great stuff, thanks.
    There's so much to think about, but only spending a couple of minutes on each question initially really helps to pin down the important things.

  6. Thank you, this will help a lot!!

  7. This is great info and the book looks wonderful. I think a lot of people over think what a business plan needs to be and run away at the thought of complicated spreadsheets. It really can be as simple as a list of goals and rounded financial figures. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. I'd never considered a business plan until I indie published. Now I've made 6 month goals, 1 year goals, 5 years, etc. It's nice to have something to shoot for! Thanks for the great advice.

  9. Awesome resources, ladies! I'm in PR for my day job so I work with similar templates all the time and I'm right at the point where I was planning to adapt them for my writing. To find out there are already writing-customized templates out there is fantastic! Perfect timing on this post. Thanks Amy (and Janice!). ;)